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my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." Why is charity so superlatively excellent, and so absolutely essential to a virtuous character? The Apostle tells us in the next verse but one. It is because "charity seeketh not her own." Such disinterested love the gospel every where inculcates, and especially in the precepts following. "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him water to drink. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." According to the plain and obvious meaning of these passages, true love is disinterested, and essentially different from every selfish and sinful affection. It only remains to show,
III. That true love is the fulfilling of the law. The spirit of this proposition is, that pure, genuine benevo. lence is the essence and comprehension of all the obedience, which God requires in his word. To establish this great and fundamental doctrine of religion, I would observe,
1. That true benevolence conforms the heart to God. God is love. His whole moral character consists in the various exercises and expressions of pure benevolence. Those, therefore, who feel and express a truly benevolent spirit, are conformed to God, the standard of moral perfection. So our Savior taught his disciples. "Ye have heard, that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on
the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." If the moral perfection of man consist in conformity to the moral perfection of God, and the moral perfection of God consist in love; then love must be the fulfilling of the law. Certainly God cannot require man to be more holy or perfect than Himself.
2. It appears from express declarations of Scripture, that love answers the full demand of the law. When a certain man asked our Savior, "Which is the great commandment in the law?" He replied, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment: And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." This last clause fixes our Lord's meaning, and leaves no room to doubt, that true love fulfils, not only the first and second, but every other precept of the law. The Apostle James, speaking on the same subject, says, "The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart." By this he declares that charity or true love fully answers the spirit and design of the law. And he conveys the same sentiment by a different mode of expression. "If ye fulfil the royal law according to Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." The Apostle Paul, having exhorted believers to exercise a variety of holy affections, concludes by saying, “Above all these things put on charity which is the bond of perfectness." By this he in
timates, that true love comprizes and links together all the christian graces and virtues, which form a perfect moral character. And he says the same thing again in plainer terms. "All the law is fulfilled in one word, even this; Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself." These passages, taken in their most easy and natural sense, plainly teach us, that love answers all the demands of the law.
3. It is the nature of true love to make us feel and act in every respect, just as God requires. So far as we possess true benevolence, we shall both internally and externally obey every divine command. We shall not only feel properly towards God, our neighbor, and ourselves; but also express our feelings by all proper external actions. Are we commanded to rejoice that the Lord reigneth? If we love God, we shall sincerely rejoice in his supreme and universal do. minion. Are we commanded to pray without ceasing? If we love God, we shall take pleasure in pouring out our hearts before him in prayer. Are we commanded to do every thing to the glory of God? If we love God, we shall do every thing heartily as unto the Lord, and not unto men. Are we commanded to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? If we esteem him the chiefest among ten thousand, we shall naturally exercise that faith, which worketh by love. Are we exhorted to do to others, as we would, that others should do to us? If we love others as ourselves, we shall as really seek their interest, as our own. Are rulers required to promote the good of their subjects? If they love their subjects, they will exert all their power and abilities, to promote their peace and prosperity. Is it the duty of subjects to obey their rulers? If they love their rulers, they will obey them, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. Does it become the rich
to be kind to the poor? If the love of God be shed abroad in their hearts, they cannot see proper objects of charity, and yet shut up their bowels of compassion from them. In a word, if there be any other commandment, which has not been mentioned, love will prompt men to obey it.
This natural tendency of love, to produce every virtuous feeling and action, is beautifully illustrated by the Apostle's description of charity; which, he says, "suffereth long, and is kind, and which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Such patience, kindness, candor, and selfdenial, love has often produced. Love led Abraham to offer up Isaac. Love led Moses to renounce all his worldly prospects, and to suffer affliction with the people of God. Love led the prophets, the Apostles, and primitive christians, to perform astonishing acts of obedience and suffering. And love led the man Christ Jesus to suffer and die on the cross for the salvation of sinners. Love therefore, is the fulfilling of the law, as it prompts men to do every thing, which God commands. Add to this,
4. Love restrains men from every thing, which God forbids. The law has prohibitions as well as precepts. God forbids some things as well as requires others. And it is the nature of love to restrain men from doing what God forbids, as well as to prompt them to do what God enjoins. We read, "Charity envieth not, charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity." So long as love reigns in the heart, it restrains men from envy, pride, vanity, resentment, and every unseemly thought, word and action, which God has forbidden. And it is in more particular reference to this restraining influence of
love, that the Apostle says it is the fulfilling of the law. This appears from the words before the text, Owe no man any thing, but to love one another; for, he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." If a man love his neighbor, he will not injure his person, nor property, nor character. If a man love his enemy, he will not render evil for evil, but blessing for cursing. If a man love his country, he will do nothing to injure its prosperity and happiness. And if a man love God, he will neither profane his name, nor dishonor his Son, nor resist his Spirit, nor oppose his kingdom, nor complain of his providence, nor do any thing to rob him of his glory. Love worketh no ill to any created, nor uncreated being; and, therefore, it is in this and all other respects, the fulfilling of the law.
1. If all obedience to the divine law consists in the positive exercise of true love; then all disobedience to the divine law must consist in the positive exercise of false love, or real selfishness. The mere want of love cannot be a transgression of the law of love. Though all the animal tribes are totally destitute of that love, which the law requires; yet they do not disobey the will of their Maker. A mere want is a mere nothing, and a mere nothing has no natural, nor moral qualities. It is as hard to conceive, that disobedience should consist in mere privation, as to conceive, that obedience should,. It is as hard to conceive, that sin